A review of “The Phantom of the Opera” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for mild violence

Run Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

 

 

Joel Schumacher crafts a musical hiccup with this feebly cast rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous stage opera. Lavish but overblown, Phantom makes the visual transition to the screen with exaggerated aplomb. 

Paris circa 1870 is awash in glorious plumage and sumptuous flair.  Drama reigns inside the Opera Populaire.  A mysterious apparition known as the Angel of Music has taken psychological control of one of the Opera’s promising chorus girls (Emmy Rossum as Christine Daae), tutoring her to a fine pitch. 

The new owners of the Populaire (Simon Callow and Ciaran Hinds) have their own sticky issues to deal with, in particular a frightfully bitchy diva (Minnie Driver) who refuses to budge when it comes to relinquishing even a smidgeon of the limelight.

The AOM/Phantom (Gerard Butler) controls all from the dark, dank recesses of the Opera house, resorting to murder to get his point across. Christine Daae will sing the production leads or heads will roll.

Schumacher tries his damnedest to make Phantom work but his choices are extremely questionable.  The signature number (“The Phantom of the Opera”) is orchestrated with a blowzy soft rock beat set to visual images of Christine and the Phantom languorously floating through a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque tunnel.  Ugh.

There are a few hits among the misses; showy “Masquerade” a fabulous spectacle of light and sound perfectly suited to the carnival atmosphere and Rossum singing a plaintive refrain to her father (“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”) in the wintry shadow of his chilly tomb.

Butler is a substandard selection for the architect, composer and magician whose genius has turned to madness.  The Phantom is the crux of the project and needs to be larger than life; a dynamic, sexual creature with a well-developed dark side and a fiery yearning for the inaccessible Christine.  Butler is too pretty, too vocally shaky, and lacking the charisma of a suitable lover/monster.

Ditto the Vicompte Raoul de Chagny, Christine’s dashing suitor portrayed bland and boring by milquetoast actor Patrick Wilson.  Rossum can hit a high note and she looks the part, but without strong male leads to watch her back she’s done for.

 Points for extravagance and a few comic moments resulting from the confusion of having a ghost in the house. The score is a take it or leave it affair subject to a fancy for Webber’s melodious charms.  Count me among his fans and thus utterly dissatisfied with this weak effort.